I think today would be the proper time to breathe some life back into Oy Comamos y Bebamos.  As I sit here, bathed in the wheat-drenched bouquet of a freshly baked rustic Italian loaf, the lyrics of this fine song waft their way through my mind.

Oy comamos Y bebamos

y cantemos y holguemos

que mañana ayunaramos.

Today we eat and drink!  Let us sing and enjoy life!  For tomorrow we fast.  Indeed, let us enjoy life before we remember that with the revelry comes piety; with the party comes the crash; with the sin comes the penance.

As I have evolved since the inception of my first blog, which eventually was rolled into iddream.com, I have made a study of religion as evidenced in my life.  Now, you may ask, “Why are you bringing up religion in a food column?” There is no more proper pairing, actually.  Let me explain where I am heading with this notion:

It dawned on me that much of what I feel has been lost in many people’s lives, including my own, is cultural identification and the celebration of this wonderful thing.  During a conversation that I had with a friend, it dawned on me that there are two major components to culture beyond racial or geographical connection: spirituality and food.  Food plays an enormous part in our identification with family members near and far.  In the soup that is America, food allows the re-forging of past cultural bonds as well as the building of bridges to new ones.  Food, culture, and spirituality all meet on days such as today: Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Carnevale, etc.  For many, including myself, today’s gluttony behind the feasting transforms into the penance behind fasting.

What does this mean in the entirety of cultural scope?  A lot, I think.  It is clear to me that due to the boom in fast-food culture, many Americans have lost their identification with the food that makes us all individuals.  The 1950’s brought about a stark, newchange in how Americans fed each other.  With the advent of pre-packaged foods, America’s diets morphed into the mundane and the bland.  Everyone ate everything that everyone else ate.  All the ladies needed to do was open the new space-age packaging, pop the “food” in the stove and enjoy the science experiment gone awry.  Households became used to the ease and convenience of this nice, fast food.  Of course, we all know what happens from here on.  Ask McDonald’s or Burger King how happy they are that the convenience foods of the 1950’s exploded into the American mainstream.  Culture, already spinning down the drain, was all but virtually destroyed by this onslaught of fast food.

Now, more than half a century later, real food is making a comeback.  Real food is actually appearing less as the bad guy that is ruining your daily schedule but more as what fuels our love for conversation, health, learning, and bonding.  Real food is the food for real life.  Life is not the endless errands we run while sacrificing true quality time with our friends or our family.  Life is making sure that we all sit at the table and break bread with one another.  Life is sipping a glass of wine, all the while discussing the day’s or the week’s events.  Life is connecting with each other not over the Internet but over a table full of delicious, real food.

Ask yourself what you do during a day’s time.  Do you run from place to place?  Or do you return to zero?  Do you fill yourself with these things that aren’t made with anything that resembles food grown from the earth or harvested from animals?  Or do you connect with the food you make and connect your soul to those you touch?  These are questions we should ask ourselves every day, especially when we’re tempted to stop in at Arby’s and consume an “all natural” chicken sandwich.  If the chicken wasn’t natural already, what was it?!?!  What have we been eating?  What are we still eating?  It is of utmost importance to our own selves as well as to our brethren to remember our cultural roots and the foods that are borne within.  We would all do well to ensure our bonds with each other, past, present, and future.

Even as we all meld into one pot, we must strive to remember what makes up the whole is the conglomeration of the individual.  We are all of different cultures, races, and strains of spirituality and we have to remember that what we bring to the table is our own flavor, so to speak.  While we all strive for the success of the whole, the strength of the net that bears us is fortified by our own individual cultures and one of the ways we can re-connect and continue to do so is by sharing with one another the craft of creating food – real food.  Passing on the culture to future generations can only weave a greater bond to strengthen us all.

As we Christians, Catholics especially, head into the season of penance, I leave you again with these words so integral to the meaning of food in our lives:

Let us enjoy ourselves today,

for tomorrow is like death.

Let us eat and drink everything

as we head for our flocks.

We won’t lose even a mouthful.

we’ll eat on the way,

for tomorrow we fast.

Be of good health and of better spirit.